The Dorset County Museum has a rich and interesting history. Guest writer DAVE GOULDEN reveals how its dark past may be behind some mysterious door slamming!
Some years ago before moving on to my present employment, I had what I considered to be the best job I have done to date.
I spent eight glorious months working at Dorset County Museum in Dorset’s county town of Dorchester. The museum itself focuses on Dorset’s rich archaeological & geological past, as well as notable Dorset writers Thomas Hardy & William Barnes.
My role was to oversee the general running of the museum over the weekends. As a lover of history having the museum often to myself was a position that I treasured. I would sometimes spend time in the museum for an hour or so both before and after hours. Especially, before opening to make sure everything was ready for the visiting public.
One such Sunday morning, I was in the museum on my own when the phone rang. At the other end was a gentleman enquiring about an exhibit which was a full sized papier-mache horse designed by a local artist. The call was to find out who the artist was. I asked the caller to hold whilst I went to the exhibit to gather the information.
The horse was at the far end of the museum in front of two large security doors approximately 15 ft. tall. Both doors and all internal doors would shut, and sit back in their open position on magnetic pods. This is so the alarm system could be set and disengaged during the opening and closing of the galleries.
If the doors were not open, or closed, and not set back on the pods, the alarm system would not work, and would alert you to a vulnerable zone. Whilst I was taking down the notes of the artist who had created the horse, the left hand door of the two, set at the open position, on the magnetic pod slammed shut right beside me. At an instant it occurred to me that there was not much scope for an obvious reason how this could happen.
The strange haunted door at Dorset County Museum
To this day I have no idea how a door which was heavy and would have needed a good push to release it from the magnetic pod could shut with such force out of the blue, when I was completely on my own. One other piece of detail to mention is that the double doors were in the area of a brutal murder that took place when the museum was a hostelry called The Old George Inn during the mid-1900. The story is believed to involve one of the inn’s regulars, who took a liking to the landlady. When her husband found out, he pushed the man down a flight of stairs killing him instantly.
As a paranormal researcher for many years, I have always maintained a rational head with all things supernatural, and would consider myself as healthily sceptical. I had heard the stories regarding this part of the museum. Staff members would say it was a cold and unfriendly part of such an otherwise warm building. They would talk of the murder, and the possibility of a haunting in what was the oldest, and only under developed gallery. Virtually unchanged since its days as The Old George.
I would not like to suggest any clear link between the two incidents. But after looking at all possible explanations, like a breeze or technical fault. To this date, it remains as the one single event that I am at a loss to explain. It really is spooky!
DAVE GOULDEN works as a radio presenter for Dorset’s Wessex FM, and runs an audio production company called Evoke Media. Dave says: “Paranormally Active takes a refreshing approach to paranormal research. We first of all look at the normal instead of just assuming that all is paranormal. It may be that alleged phenomena is real, and ghosts do exist. But we have to be honest with ourselves that we have no concrete proof yet. At Paranormally Active, we like to apply a little critical thinking and step outside the box in our methods of exploring this genre. If one day we have explored all logical avenues and come to a point where we have no rational explanation for something. Then we may be able to look at things from a paranormal point of view. Until then we must remain focused, level headed and healthily sceptical when it comes to our research.”
Thanks for a lovely article about a place I frequented as a child and student. I haven’t visited in years, having moved away from Dorchester many years ago, but my overriding memory of that place is the loud, slow ticking of the big clock mechanism, so relaxing! I spent hours there as an archaeology student drawing flint hand axes one summer. I can’t say I ever felt it was a spooky place, though the skeleton from the Maiden Castle battle with the ballista bolt in his spine did give me the creeps as a child!
If you want to know about a seriously chilling Dorset Museum, however, look no further than Bridport. I worked there in various capacities between 1991 and 1992 both when it was open in summer and closed for the winter. It was only a few days after I started there when I realised something was going on, and soon found records in the local press to corroborate my feelings. Colleagues, however, were at first reluctant to talk about the haunting; it was clearly quite scary for all who experienced it. For me, events built up from subtle stuff like smells to exhibits being flung off the walls. One time I was locking up and it was dark and rainy outside. I fled the upstairs gallery where most of the activity happened and listened to the comforting clunk of the doors shutting magnetically as I locked myself into the office downstairs for a final bit of paperwork before heading home. But that paperwork didn’t get done , as I realised the ghost had followed me downstairs and the strong smell of pipe tobacco was in the room with me. As ever, I felt I was not only being watched, but watched with malicious intent. I literally ran home, half afraid I would be followed.
I am gathering some accounts from the Bridport area and Bridport Museum. Feel free to email me at [email protected] for a chat if you want.